tv PBS News Hour PBS October 5, 2012 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: the unemployment rate dropped below 8% for the first time since january 2009. president obama cheered the figures; mitt romney criticized the administration for not creating enough jobs. good evening. i'm judy woodruff. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the newshour tonight, what do the numbers tell us about the true state of the labor market? we get an assessment. >> woodruff: then, gwen ifill reports on missouri's senate contest where the democratic incumbent has unexpectedly grabbed the lead. >> this the united states senate.
mark shields an david brooks >> brown: mark shields and david brooks analyze the weeks news. >> woodruff: and ray suarez previews another political match to watch, thousands of miles south in venezuela, where long- time leader hugo chavez faces a young challenger. >> the election marks a watershed moment for the world's second largest oil producing nation. and a critical supplier of crude oil to the u.s. its number one customer. >> woodruff: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: carnegie corp >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and...
>> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> brown: more jobs, less unemployment. the september numbers offered the latest look into the u.s. economy, and the latest fuel for the fight over economic policy in the presidential campaign. it was the kind of news that president obama hoped for, just over a month before the election and two days after a sub-par debate outing. >> more americans entered the work force, more people are getting jobs. >> brown: indeed, september's unemployment rate, calculated by a survey of households, fell to 7.8%. that's the lowest since the president took office. a second survey, of businesses, showed that employers added a net of 114,000 jobs, and job gains for july and august were
revised upward by 86,000 the president touted the numbers in a campaign stop at george mason university in fairfax, virginia. >> now, every month reminds us that we've still got too many of our friends and neighbors who are looking for work. there are too many middle class families that are still struggling to pay the bills. they were struggling long before the crisis hit. but today's news certainly is not an excuse to try to talk down the economy to score a few political points. it's a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now. >> brown: that was a swipe at republican mitt romney and his economic prescriptions. but in southwest virginia, romney fired back that the report does not portray a real recovery. >> the unemployment rate, as you noted, this year has come down very, very slowly. but it's come down, nonetheless. the reason it's come down this year is primarily due to the fact that more and more people have just stopped looking for work.
so it looks like unemployment's getting better, but the truth is, if the same share of people were participating in the workforce today as on the day the president got elected, why, our unemployment rate would be around 11%. that's the real reality of what's happening out there. >> brown: in fact, total employment in september did increase, for the first time since june, by 873,000. but two-thirds of those were people who took part-time jobs when they could not find full- time work. today, some even questioned the accuracy of the data. on twitter, former general electric c.e.o. jack welch suggested the obama administration manipulated the numbers. but on cnbc, labor secretary hilda solis called that claim "ludicrous" and defended the bureau of labor statistics. >> you know, i'm insulted when i hear that, because we have a very professional civil service organization where you have top, top economists that work at the b.l.s.
>> brown: the employment numbers landed as the campaigns put up new ads attacking each other on jobs and taxes. >> president obama says he's creating jobs. but he's really creating debt. the facts are clear. obama's four deficits are the four largest in u.s. history. he's adding almost as much debt as all 43 previous presidents combined. and over 30 cents of every dollar obama spends is borrowed, much of it from countries like china. he's not just wasting money; he's borrowing it and then wasting it. we can't afford four more years. >> why won't romney level with us about his tax plan, which gives the wealthy huge new tax breaks? because, according to experts, he'd have to raise taxes on the middle class, or increase the deficit to pay for it. if we can't trust him here, how can we ever trust him here? >> brown: meanwhile, on the fox news channel last night, romney reversed course on his remark that 47% of americans don't pay taxes and, in his words, are dependent on government, so he couldn't worry about them and their votes. >> in this case, i said something that's just completely wrong. and i absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown
that i care about the 100% and that has been demonstrated throughout my life. this whole campaign is about the 100%. when i become president, it'll be about helping the 100%. >> brown: still, president obama was having none of it. >> from the day we began this campaign, we've always said that real change takes time. it takes more than one year or one term, or even one president. it takes more than one party. it certainly can't happen if you're willing to write off half the nation before you even take office. >> brown: with the economy dominating the campaign, and with 12 million americans still unemployed, it was clear the punching and counter-punching over jobs will only grow more intense. and there's still one more monthly employment report coming-- on november 2, four days before election day. to help break down the jobs numbers, i am joined by neil irwin, economics reporter at the "washington post." and diane swonk, chief economist at mesirow financial.
diane, start with you, was this big drop in the unemployment number a surprise or what's going on? >> well, certainly it was a surprise. we can see allots of volatility in this number from a month-to-month basis. we saw the big increase in employment. we saw big decrease in unemployment. but over time both this report and the other reports that's the payroll survey tend to converge. and i think that's important to remember. it's also important to remember that in general a 2/10 movement or 3/10 movement in unemployment rate actually isn't statistically significant. i know it makes the headlines but 7.8% is not all that different from 8% or 7.6% on a statistical basis. so i think that's also important to remember in this day, it is highly volatile with a wide range on what is really significant. >> brown: of course it makes for a big headline in a political campaign but before we head to the politics fill in a little bit more about these two surveys because it is very con sues-- confusing, the household and business survey. >> as diane says they are flashing different signals. the household survey go to
60,000 households, the labor department does and says do you have a job, dow want a job, are you looking for a job. those are the basic questions. and from that they construct the unemployment rate and that survey is showing some good signs, about 800,000 more people, 873,000, actually who said they had jobs in september who didn't in august. that's progress, that is a good sign. but the separate survey of employers captures many thousands of employers around the country, showed a more modest job gain. 114,000 jobs added, that's not that great. that is actually below what you need every month to match population growth. so the question is which is more accurate. and normally economists look at the payroll survey. the weaker one this month as a more accurate month-to-month indicator of what is going on. diane says they tend to converge over time. there is more statistical variance in the household survey t jumps around a lot more so we would expect to see something maybe a little better than the payroll and worse than what we saw. >> is there any particular reason why sometimes they converge, sometimes they
diverge. >> there can be. what household surveys can pick up is people who are self-employed, people who are working for newly created businesses that maybe aren't fully reflected it in the payroll survey just yet so in that sense it could be a leading indicator. we don't know for sure it will take a few more months to know whether there is something really substantive going on or just a blip. >> diane swonk, in that large number in a household survey, 873,000 increase, that includes a lot of people who are in part-time work, right? i mean tell us about what can you read from a big number like that? what kind of work? >> well, actually, you know, it's a little more complicated than even that. >> i thought so. >> yeah, the 600,000 increase in the people looking-- accepting part-time work but for economic reasons they would really like full-time work but couldn't find it that is a sign of the stress in the labor market that is ongoing. the underlying data in this survey, and believe me they have so many tables, it is mind-boggling. actually suggests that full-time employment is
increasing rapidly, more rapidly than part-time employment. and part-time employment and the economy overall has fallen over the last several years. i think that is very important to understand. you can think about the nature of it. when you walk into a fast-food restaurant, many people behind the counter are now full-time employees that are older rather than the teenagers that they once hired part-time so there is a different structure in the economy but that sign of the stressors, the 600,000 increase in the number of people who are looking for full-time work who can't find it and are having to accept something less, i think that is really a sign of the underlying weakness in the economy. like neil said, we had this big number, unemployment as well. so we got to this number from a lot of different ways. it was basically good household number, a basically okay not great payroll number. but again, any month they tend to verge and the bigger story is what is the trend. we need to see several months in a row of big numbers like that in the house hold survey and a pickup in the payroll survey to really feel good about this data.
>> brown: now i need you, neil to address this number out there about the manipulation. jack walsh as we saw raised it, i don't know if others-- it is getting alot of traction there. and i know you have been following it all day. what do we know about whether something like-- something like that is possible. >> you know, the bureau of labor statistics is one of the really highly respected government agencies. it's not operated by political op rattives or people influenced by the white house or appointed by the president. it's run day-to-day by all of these nonpartisan functionaries who do their job, they do it well. it's very possible the numbers are wrong. but if the numbers are wrong it's because of statistical variance, because of the difficulty of capturing what is going on in a nation of 300 million people every month. it is really unlikely that there is any kind of deliberate manipulation of the numbers or monkeying with the numbers. >> brown: diane swonk, what do you think of that? >> well, you know, i served on the statistic committee for the national association of business economics. i have met with all the
statition, i have done congressional testimony on the quality and improving the quality of economic data. the last thing you ever get, you don't get any politics to make it some turf battles between the different agencies but you certainly don't get any partisan politics. and that is the last thing on their mind. in fact to think that they could be coordinated enough like neil said, 60,000 households, you, they have to call over 100,000 households t 2200 people making those calls that is a lot of coordination to assume the government could actually get to some kind of conspiracy in that household survey to get the unemployment rate to come out as in some people's words, the jobs numbers were cooked. it's just not, not possible to organize these people in that way. it's like corralling cats. like neil said, highly respected economists that are doing the best they can. these are bureaucrats, lifetime people devoted to one thing, making the best economic data they can with sometimes very limited resource. if the data is wrong it's because sometimes they are not measuring the economy right and they haven't been able to innovate because the
government hasn't given them the means to do that or even gain efficiencies in the way they dot data but to the because they are delib rately trying to cook the books. >> brown: so just in our last couple of minutes here, and neath starting with you, we are in a political campaign. we see both sides picking up. are there things here that they are both-- you see are there things there they are both looking at and picking up on. >> president obama has a very easy story. his campaign on this report, the unemployment rate came down and for good reasons, because people got jobs, not because people dropped out of the labor force. what mitt romney has is a case that has some merit as well. look, unemployment 17.8%. that's still way too high, much higher than what we want to see. the broader definition of unemployment called-- people work part-time who want full-time jobs. people who have given up looking, 14.7%, unchanged last month. this is a better report than most people expected. happy days are not here again. and that's what they will be arcing about on the trail.
>> brown: and diane, i think you told one of our producers today it was a tale of two economies, still, so that's clearly what the candidates are seeing. >> absolutely. i mean unfortunately this is still a very, we're in a recovery, that's the good news. still a very uneven recovery. at the end of the day, it's still subpar. there is no unpopping champagne corks over this economy. and i wish there were. it would be nice to see a trend more in the right direction in that no matter who wins. >> i think are you still expecting to see those ads come from both sides, right? >> they're not going to go away any time soon and we're not going to see a major shift in that trend before the election. let's face it. you can't fool the american public. they know what is going on. at the end of the day, you look around, see the houses are no longer falling in price that is good news. they get a couple of jobs, that's good news. it's not enough good news to make everything okay again. we are still digging ourselves out of a hole from a severe crisis. >> diane swonk and neil irwin, thanks both very much. >> thank you.
>> woodruff: still to come on the newshour: the senate race that's become a national story in missouri; shields and brooks; and an election to watch, very far down south. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: wall street rallied at first on the jobs report, but investors dialed back their enthusiasm as the day went on. in the end, the dow jones industrial average gained more than 34 points to close at 13,610. the nasdaq fell 13 points to close at 3,136. for the week, the dow gained more than 1%; the nasdaq was up just over half a percent. gas prices in california spiked overnight, in some places by much as 20 cents a gallon. the average price of regular gas reached nearly $4.49 a gallon, the highest in the nation. overnight, long lines were seen all over the state as people rushed to fill up before another increase. demand was so high that some costco stations and others ran out and shut down. refinery outages and pipeline problems have contributed to the price hikes. doctors and clinics in 23 states are trying to alert hundreds of patients, and maybe thousands, who could be at risk for fungal meningitis. they may have received
contaminated steroid injections for back pain. so far, at least 47 people have been infected in seven states-- indiana, michigan, tennessee, virginia, maryland, florida, and north carolina. five people have died. officials at the center for disease control and prevention in atlanta say a concerted effort is underway. >> they are working with state and local health departments to contact patients who may have received injections at the facilities who received the recalled lots of this medication to inform them that they may have been exposed, to find out out if they are having symptoms and instruct them to seek health care should they be ill. >> the >> sreenivasan: the tainted steroids came from a massachusetts pharmacy which has now suspended operations. in syria today, the rebel stronghold of homs endured the heaviest bombardment in months. thick plumes of smoke could be seen rising above the central city's skyline as syrian government warplanes, tanks and artillery intensified their assault. meanwhile, turkish media reported syrian troops fired
another mortar round into southern turkey. no one was hurt, but the turkish military returned fire. a similar exchange earlier this week left several dead on both sides. the turmoil deepened today in south africa's mining industry. the world's largest platinum producer, amplats, fired 12,000 miners for staging an unlawful strike. it was the latest turn in two months of labor unrest and violence in south africa. in august, police shot and killed 34 strikers working for another major platinum concern. nearly 80,000 miners are currently striking across the country. the highest court in britain ruled today that five terror suspects can be extradited to the u.s., including abu hamza al-masri. the radical muslim preacher, and the others, had fought extradition for years. al-masri's mosque in london was known as a training ground for radical islamists in the 1990s. he's accused of trying to set up a terror training camp in oregon. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: and we come back to politics. in the battle for control of the
u.s. senate, many expected missouri would be an easy pick- up for republicans. gwen ifill reports on why the seat is now back in play for democrats. >> remember, get someone to sign up for a shift. and if you would, sign up for a shift. if you can sign up for a shift a week, we can get this done. >> ifill: last august, democrat claire mccaskill became one of the luckiest endangered incumbents in the nation. >> this election will be close. i can't remember an election in our state for this seat that wasn't close. >> ifill: but for mccaskill, who won only narrowly in 2006, close is good. and the latest polls actually shows her ahead. but until recently, national democrats actually expected her to lose. >> i give you our next senator, todd akin. >> ifill: that changed when challenger todd akin made waves
by going on television to declare that rape victims should not be allowed to have abortions because they seldom get pregnant. >> from what i understand from doctors, that's really rare. if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. >> ifill: the video went viral and akin's national profile soared. but the five-term congressman immediately became a political pariah within his own party, with mitt romney, paul ryan and every senior missouri republican demanding he get out of the race. akin apologized, but he did not drop out because, he says now, he is not a quitter. >> i've been in gas stations at different places. people come up. i don't know if they're going to hit me or love me. they say, "are you akin? are you todd akin?" i go, "yes, i..." and people say, "i'm going to vote for you. don't you step down. we chose you. we expect you to go and win this race." >> ifill: akin is strongly anti-
abortion, and has made controversial statements before, including in 2008 when, on the house floor, he derided abortion providers. >> you find that, along with the culture of death, go all kinds of other law breaking-- not following good sanitary procedure, giving abortions to women who are not actually pregnant, cheating on taxes, all these kinds of things. >> ifill: mccaskill's campaign ads remind voters of akin's comments. >> on march 16, akin said he wants to abolish the minimum wage. on april 21, said he would eliminate student loans. and on august 19, todd akin said only some rapes are "legitimate." what will he say next? >> ifill: but mccaskill has her own problems. romney is well ahead in missouri, and more than half of the voters here disapprove of president obama. she says she remains independent. >> i think the president, if he
were in missouri, he would say to missourians what i hope they know about me, and that is i can be a real pain. i am not someone who does what he wants me to do at his beck and call. i have said no to him. it doesn't mean i don't support him; it just means i have a strong objective record of independence. >> ifill: akin is happy to remind voters she voted for both his health care and his stimulus plans. >> she's trying to say that she is mainstream, but when you vote with barack obama 98% of the time, it's hard to say that with a straight face. >> ifill: the outcome of this election could hinge on what happens in liberal cities like st. louis, where mccaskill's supporters are, or on conservative suburbs like here in st. charles, deep in akin's congressional district. as the candidates fight it out for money, time, attention and enthusiasm, it matters which voters turn out where. dave robertson, a political
science professor at the university of missouri st. louis, says the topsy-turvy election has cut both ways. >> one of the things akin has been able to do is electrify some of the conservative base. but there's a counter movement to that. and that is he's also helped electrify some of the female voters in the state, some of the moderate voters in the state, some of the key voters in the suburbs of this state that are going to determine the outcome of this election. and that's a real disadvantage for him. >> ifill: akin is counting on conservatives, home schooling parents, and evangelicals to rally around his cause. >> we don't tell you who to vote for, but i'm going to tell you how to vote. >> ifill: reverend stoney shaw, pastor of ferguson first baptist church, has known akin for 25 years. >> some of my family, my children were, "dad, how can you
support him? everybody is turning against him." i said, "you know, there was another guy everybody turned against-- jesus christ-- but he prevailed. and i believe todd will prevail. he's a good man. did he misspeak on that issue? yes, of course he did. but he asked for forgiveness. >> ifill: linda becker, who lives in akin's district and considers him a friend, thinks it's time to move beyond the rape remarks. ♪ ♪ becker dabbles in singing pop and gospel, even on occasion with akin, and last week was on stage at oktoberfest in st. charles. she says she doesn't like the idea of washington politicians dictating missouri's choice. >> todd stayed in and i am so proud of him for staying in and sticking with us. because there a lot of people who want todd in the u.s. senate.
and he's answering that by staying in and fighting. >> ifill: is that appealing to people that he's staying in and fighting? >> yes, that's very appealing. they like that he's standing up and fighting the powers that be. >> ifill: both candidates are betting big on two things-- that their supporters will turn out and that their opponents' will stay home. cheryl hibbeler was also at the st. charles festival. but she's been working for mccaskill. >> claire is a strong woman, strong convictions. she's tried to work with both sides. but we get the reaction from the "persuasion" people that we're calling that they don't want to vote for claire mccaskill because they think that she's too much connected to president obama. but when we talk about it more and when they find out more
about who todd akin is, they say "well, i don't like him either." and a non-vote is pretty much an assistance to claire. >> ifill: but after akin refused to get out of the race-- and as national republicans began to worry the missouri seat might cost them control of the senate -- some akin critics, including senator roy blunt, have returned to the fold. still, the party rift remains. former republican senator john danforth, a force in the st. louis community, said he would rather write in a candidate than support akin. >> i can understand their position. i mean, it's like counting apples. you know, they're saying, "well, we need 50 or 51 in the senate and he's one person who's competing for a seat." but i see him as the apple that spoils the barrel. i mean, that's the way i look at akin. i think that he really hurts the republican brand and he damages the party nationally, and that it's very important for republicans to say no.
>> ifill: akin says he'll settle for support from republicans out of state, including former presidential candidates mike huckabee, rick santorum, and newt gingrich, and even pat boone. all that has left both mccaskill and akin fighting for the middle, with mccaskill condemning akin as extreme. >> he believes that a rape victim should not be able to get emergency contraception. that's a fundamental core belief he has. he believes that the federal government should not tell employers that they are limited in terms of how they can discriminate against women. it's not that we're on opposite ends; it's just that he's so far from the middle. >> ifill: for akin, who caused a new stir when he said mccaskill had not been very "lady-like" during their last debate, it is mccaskill who is out of touch with the state's values.
>> let's talk about the mainstream thinking in the state of missouri. you take a look at the second amendment-- in the state of missouri, that's a freedom people respect, the right to bear arms. i have an "a" rating from the n.r.a.; she has an "f" rating. now, which is mainstream? >> ifill: mccaskill has one clear advantage. with under a month to go, she has far more cash in her campaign war chest, while outside pac money has stopped flowing into akin's campaign. barring new controversy, that, as much as anything, may determine who gets the last word. >> brown: the full interviews with todd akin and claire mccaskill are online. plus, get gwen's take on how romney's post-debate rebound might play out in the missouri senate race. that's in her weekly blog post on our politics page. >> woodruff: and that brings us to the analysis of shields and brooks-- syndicated columnist mark shields and "new york times columnist david brooks.
gentlemen, good to have you with us. let's talk about the jobs report, what about that missouri senate raitt. >> it's ri remarkable race. >> hes have broken ranks and endorsed congressman akin and do-- whom claire mccaskill defeated in 2006. so republicans had expected to do a lot better, judy, this year than they are doing right now according to most estimates. the seats that they took for granted, dick lugar's in indiana, richard murdoch, the two party candidate is now behind centrist democrat joe donnelly, in maine where olympia snowee is going to walk to re-election, that the republicans are trailing badly es against an guess king. so all of a sudden republicans are looking, well, maybe we have to figure out a way to help congressman akin even though we don't want to get close to him because we could face
a loss of seats. >> arizona, jeff flake. >> that's right. >> connecticut is close, the republicans doing a little better there. so yeah, it's becoming very close. it will be interesting to see the polls start being sunday when the post debate polls. because whether or not romney was able to turn around against obama there is some expectations that he might have helped some down ticket republicans. so we'll see t is kind of amazing, akin is hanging in there given the record. and you know, within five and that could get a little closer. it's sort of a lesson. if you just want to be machiavellian about it, the whole party was desperate for him to get out. he stuck it out. he is still hanging in there. if he left his career would be over. now he has some chance of being a s'more. >> i mean everybody was writing him off. >> absolutely. >> weren't they. >> they were. there is a libertarian who is getting 9%. so but what is interesting, jennifer duffy, the senate expert at the cooke political report pointed out that in the democrats won three senate seats including missouri, montana and virginia in 2006, the great
year w 4.8 million votes cast by 66,000 total. so i mean, in all three are contested again, tim kane is running in virginia, john is running for re-election in montana. so races that were considered pretty good shots for the republicans now all of a sudden are in play. >> let's talk about that jobs report, david. unemployment rate dropped to 7.8%. 114,000 jobs. what does that mean for the campaign? >> well, obviously the line that romney has been using all these months of 8%, he can't use that line any more. i'm frankly a little skeptical that it makes a huge difference there was a bad jobs, falsely bad jobs number a month ago. now revised upwards and i didn't notice it had any big effect. i'm generally a believer that people feel the economy around them much more than they pay attention to the numbers on tv or in the paper once a month. but what's interesting is that the perception of the economy among americans has actually been going upward
in the last six weeks. so in some ways the people are ahead of the numbers. and so we've seen the steady progress. but they see it around them more than they read about it. and so i do think there is sort of an upward trend that people are feeling. i'm not sure any individual job number has a big impact on the race. >> do you think has much of an effect? >> well, diane swonk said that statistically it's not significant. i think politically it is significant in this sense that the after 48 hours after the debate, the democrats and president obama needed good news. and remember the stimulus promise to keep unemployment below 8%, stimulus worked. okay. but i mean politically and psychologically the difference between 8.1 and 7.8 is significant. but i agree with david. i think to a greet degree, judy, the economy is already baked into people's political equation. a number, an insignificant number probably isn't going to change the political
equation. >> what does it do though, david, to the romney sort of central argument at one point, of his campaign which was the president has failed on the economy. >> yeah, i don't really think it changed that. i mean we're gaining 114,000 jobs a year,-- i mean a month. you know, this time in many recoveries we're gaining 200,000300,000, times even 400,000. so if we are at a healthy recovery, then you know, then it would hurt his argument but we're not a haley economy. and it's still basically true, though only by a slimmer margin that 2012 has been worse than 2011. so he with still make that argument. and he'll continue to do so. >> i agree with david, generally. but i think today governor romney fell back in to losing his touch. he did not have the right sound. instead of sounding sympathetic, to people that lost a job it was a little bit well, i don't care if it is getting better. it really isn't getting better. and you can't come across as rooting against, oh, it's
actually 11%, there's got to be a sense that, you know, that you are happy that people are-- that things are better. you can't come across as cheer up, eventually things will get worse. that can't be part of your message. >> woodruff: and you mentioned the debate. to the two of you, here we are 48 hours afterwards, david, does it look any different as you look backward through the lens? >> i have two questions. one, first on the romney side he established much more moderate persona i think than he has at any time. so the question to me is how does he develop tham. does he sort of flush out that moderate persona. and try to hit the people he really has to hit which is white working class women in places like ohio to show how government can help them out and how he has a plan to help them out using government. so i thought-- i think de very well. and he really broke the tea party spell. a lot of mainstream moderate republicans didn't want to sound anti-tea party because he was afraid there would be a backlash on the right. he did it and conservatives loved it because it was effective. and so we'll see how he
develops that. on the obama side, you know, i think a lot of it, the fat agency of being in office, i was trying to think of the last time obama gave a good political speech. and i think it's been a couple years he gave a very good nonpolitical speech, to gabbie giffords but i can't think of a good political speech he's given. and you know it's tough to be president. you get fat agencied. and if you are sort of only peripherally engaged or not the superengaged person, ronald reagan was not engaged in every detail, he could have the stam no-- stamina to do t but obama is engaged in everything. and i do think there is a sense of fat agency that one senses around the white house and one senses around him. nd so to get the passion that he had in 2008, i think is just hard given everything he's been through. >> you think that explains, mark, partly what happened? >> it may well, judy. 48 hours later, first of all, just a personal note, i have speculated on debate night that the president's passive performance and it was quite passive, listless, may have
been attributed in part to john kerry, his sparring partner in the prep sessions who is a leading contender to be secretary of state maybe not going tough toe-to-toe to him. my subsequent reporting has, in fact, contradicted that. john kerry, i was told by two eye witnesses was actually tougher inside than mitt romney was with barack obama. >> woodruff: so that's not it. >> no, i don't think that-- i do think what we concluded before, at least i heard several wise people say, presidential debates don't matter. this one mattered. the republicans were heading for the life boats before wednesday. i mean there was a sense of inevitability that romney was slipping, that he was going to lose. and that was totally turned around by what happened. he wiped the slate clean of what had been a bad, bad month of stumbles and gaffes and everything else. and the sense that the president was the inevitable winner i think was pierced. i don't think it was broken but i think it was pierced. and i think most of all, i come back to what brice
harlow one of washington's great wisemen said, advisor and consullate to both president eisenhower, every republican president from eisenhower to reagan told me once about the bubble of the white house. he said it's the terrible thing. it's the office itself that-- presidents don't get candidate criticism, i don't care who it is, whether it is the most powerful committee chairman or captain of industry or president of the university comes, without like just five minutes with the president i could turn him around. and once they step not oval office, whoever the president is, the same thing happens. they melt and say mr. president, you are doing a wonderful job. and our prayers are with you. and i think that he was not, the president was not prepared for that kind of-- and mitt romney to his credit did-- dashed to the middle of smiling, not a mad dash to the middle and made the case, i thought. >> i would say they had a bad theory which was that romney would come out as a very conservative, more extreme figure.
when he comes to the middle, they've got the wrong theory for the wrong debate. you know, i read the transcript again. >> woodruff: they didn't realize how much he was going to move to the middle. >> i think they were unprepared for what was about to happen and they sort of left obama without the lines that he probably had prepared. also, i reread the transcript yesterday. and i actually thought on paper obama looks a little better. there is one section which is worse. which was the closing argument, the two minute closing argument which is just terrible, just really bad 2 minutes, for a closing argument, that is something you can script and really think about. and they really got to have a concise argument, here's what by am going to do in the fix hour years. here is why you need me. when you look at the romney closing arguments t is very contrast, he will do this, i will do that, the obama thing was just a muddle. >> but if he didn't do what he needed to do before 60 or 70 million people, mark, can he make up that ground? i mean you got the vice presidential debate coming up next week. how does he make up for what
he-- missed opportunity. >> well, staircase humor in the debate he has to say, did -- he should have said, and mitt romney, are you right, he not appearing before 60 or 70 million people. the president did not play to offense or defense wednesday night. he didn't defend himself against charges that mitt romney made of his administration that have been fact checked time and again on the president's side. and he didn't play offense. he didn't give a sense where he wanted to go. judy, vice presidential debate does matter because the democrats can't lose two in a row. they really can't. i think joe biden is in a stronger position because he has spent a lot of time, four years, defending, explaining and making the case for barack obama whereas paul ryan is in an awkward position. he's going to defend, make the case to mitt romney whom he has basically been joined to the hip at six weeks ago. and you know, he's got the whole independent political identity himself. i mean biden obama as a team at this point.
but i think that the president, is just going to forget the first debate and be ready in the second one to make his case. and to engage. he wasn't ingauged. if you turn down the sound on wednesday night and just watch those two people, he is did not look happy to be there. and mitt romney did. >> what about the vice president, are the expectations now raised, as mark says. >> i think so. >> in part there is a little more pressure on joe biden because as mark said he has to do well. and hyperactive joe biden is a high risk proposition. it could turn out well and i happen to think he's pretty good debater. de well, i thought against sarah palin. de well when he ran for president. he's an eloquent guy who in the big debates has always been a very controlled figure. but paul ryan has what mitt romney had, which is the ability to real off number after number. and again i'm struck by the fact that you can get wonky this year. people somehow seem to want that. and ryan certainly has that capacity to just go through here's why our position is
right. number abcd. >> and just very quickly, 30 seconds, this notion you said a minute ago that romney has moved to the center, is that something he continues on the campaign trail? >> i bit. >> the obama folks are saying it is a different mitt romney. >> they had a big decision to make 6, 8 months ago which was do we attack him as a right wing idea loll or flip-flopper. they went idealogue now trying to switch to flip-flopper. but i think he'll have to continue that. it's working for him. >> woodruff: well, the two of you are working for us. mark shields, david brooks. and we'll see you next week. and we'll see you -- >> thursday, that's right thursday nice, vice presidential debate. mark and david keep up the talk on the doubleheader on our web site coming up after this program. >> brown: and we turn to another political race much farther away, but closely watched in washington and beyond. in venezuela, long-time leader hugo chavez faces a surprisingly
strong challenger. ray suarez has our story. >> suarez: it's being billed as a battle between david and goliath. known as "7-0"-- for the seventh of october, when venezuelans head to the polls-- the election marks a watershed moment for the world's second-largest oil- producing nation and a critical supplier of crude oil to the u.s., its number one customer. towering above the race is incumbent president hugo chavez. >> ( translated ): we will raze the competition on sunday the seventh. no one should have the smallest doubt. >> suarez: and with him, legions of red-shirted supporters known as "chavistas" from the united socialist party. >> ( translated ): starting on october 8th, we social organizations are going to join the president to make radical changes to this country. so we can impose the revolution, and finally have a socialist system firmly set in venezuela. >> suarez: through three u.s. administration's, the 58-year- old chavez has shown remarkable
staying power, surviving a coup that briefly deposed him; a constitution that term-limited him out of office; a drastic and for more than a year, his battle with cancer. all while openly antagonizing the united states as he's cozied up to the world's most isolated regimes. some will recall his theatrics in 2006 at the united nations general assembly, when he had choice words to describe then- president george w. bush. >> ( translated ): this podium where it is now my turn to speak still smells of sulfur! yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, at this same rostrum, mr. president of the united states was here, the one i call the devil. >> suarez: with president obama, he's has been less hostile, but no less theatrical, this week confidently saying the two would vote for each other in their respective contests. >> ( translated ): if i were american, i would vote for obama. and i think if obama was from
here, from barlovento or from some neighborhood in caracas, he would vote for chavez. i am sure of it. >> suarez: yet he's continued to thwart american efforts on a range of international issues, such as washington's attempt to convince iran's president mahmoud ahmadinejad to halt his country's pursuit of nuclear weapons. and he's stymied efforts to remove syria's president, bashar al-assad, by being an ally to the regime at the united nations and providing vital fuel to power assad's crackdown. indeed, as an aging fidel castro of cuba fades from visibility, chavez has supplanted him as the united states' nearest foe. and on the other side, running against chavez is david. for the first time, the typically fractured opposition has united around a challenger, henrique capriles radonski, a telegenic former governor of the populous state of miramba 18 years chavez's junior. >> ( translated ): and i say to
the people of venezuela, you judge who is in the process of change and who has become sick from power, because he who is now in the palace has defrauded the venezuelan people. >> suarez: often clad in a baseball cap bearing venezuela's national colors, the redbull- drinking 40-year-old markets himself as a modern leftist, someone who can balance free market incentives with the country's social welfare programs, like brazil. and he's struck a chord. in february's primary, he took 64% of the more than three million votes cast among five candidates. >> ( translated ): i will get into the ring, but with the objective of giving a knockout to this country's corruption, violence, unemployment, hospitals that don't work, and to the collapsing national education system and national infrastructure. >> suarez: he argues that instead of bettering the fortunes of venezuela's 29 million citizens, chavez has institutionalized the corruption he himself once campaigned
against, while providing empty revolutionary rhetoric that's polarized the country and scared off foreign investors. >> ( translated ): in 14 years, the president has been playing the same chess moves. nothing has changed at all. all the streets are damaged. socialism of the 21st century. >> suarez: today in caracas, the country's capital, price controls have led to shortages of many goods, and of housing, as the government's tried to rein in an inflation rate among the highest in the world. despite a drastic reduction of those living in extreme poverty, and a robust welfare state financed by oil revenue, 27% of the population still lives in poverty. power outages, as during this 2010 press conference, are frequent. and violent crime has soared over the past decade, as drug- related homicides and kidnappings grow.
>> ( translated ): crime is horrible. here, they kill for fun. you go out with your phone and they take it away from you, they grab you and take everything you have. there are no laws. the laws here are garbage. >> suarez: those challenges notwithstanding, president chavez enjoys all the advantages of his 14 years in office, including control of the media, fear of reprisals among voters, and a hand in the deep pockets of the state-run oil company, petroleos de venezuela s.a., from which he draws both welfare payments for the poor and funds for his campaign. >> ( translated ): before, there was nothing. my grandma was too old, she had never received a pension. then, this government came, and thanks to it, god and the president, she has her pension. >> suarez: for much of the year, polls have shown chavez with a double-digit lead over capriles. but as election day approaches, the race has narrowed. >> the election is tightening,
but what remains constant is the number of people who are undecided. >> suarez: diana negroponte is a senior fellow at the brookings institution in washington. she says, following the 2004 regional elections in venezuela, some who voted against chavez lost both jobs and government benefits. >> so although the new election machine makes it impossible to link your fingerprint to your vote-- there's a disconnect between the two-- memory of 2004 leaves people wondering, "will i lose... might i lose my benefits?" >> suarez: capriles has tried to counteract that fear with a strong shoe-leather campaign, travelling town to town across the state to introduce himself, and to circumvent chavez's media advantage. following his february primary victory, state media attempted to play into fears among the largely catholic nation, insinuating capriles was a zionist agent, a fascist and a
homosexual. carpriles is the grandson of polish jews who survived the holocaust, and describes himself as a devout catholic. with the stakes so high, many wonder whether chavez will actually relinquish power should he lose. he has said his supporters would not accept a defeat. that may help explain the deadly violence that erupted on the campaign trail on saturday. while en route to a rally in the western state of balinas, two capriles supporters were fatally shot and one was seriously wounded after a confrontation with chavez supporters blocking the road. it was the first campaign violence to claim lives, but throughout the year, there have been other clashes. if chavez should prove victorious on sunday-- and many think he will-- his future, and that of his country, remains uncertain. >> if the president should
become disabled within the first four years of office, another presidential election will be held. i know nobody who believes that chavez will survive four more years. >> suarez: yet to be seen is whether the opposition, in the face of defeat, can remain united and motivated. and with a win, how long an ailing, weakened, but still powerful chavez can hold on. >> brown: we asked a group of venezuela experts if hugo chavez has what it takes to win again. you can find their answers on our "world" page. >> woodruff: finally, tonight's edition of "need to know" assesses the mood of voters along main street in pueblo, colorado. democrats have won the once- thriving steel city in the past. but this year, economic woes have put pueblo, and the state, up for grabs. the correspondent is john larson. in this excerpt, he explores
voter attitudes about the gridlock in washington. >> jack is the director of the pueblo economic development corporation at 301 north main street. >> i can't tell you how many folks have come up to me and say what can we do. how do we impact this. and because we're talking not about our local government, not even about the state government. it's feels as though we just don't have that ability to influence those events. >> that said, that the lawmakers in washington appear increasingly deaf to the realities of main street, was something we heard from nearly everyone here regardless of political party or oddology. we asked everyone whether they had confidence the federal government could help solve some of the country's most pressing issues. >> no i don't. i mean the state of colorado has-- here and we have a lot of faith in them. the overall government, no,
i don't. >> i think they're so out of touch with what we actually do. who we actually are and how people actually live. we live payday to payday. and i used to get so happy if i paid everything. not if i had extra but if i paid everything. >> obviously are you a man of faith but how much faith dow have in our governmental institutions? >> government is so doggone dysfunctional. i am stunned at their inability to-- for basic communication skills it is as if they live in a world where if one wins, the other losses. >> pastor brad monroe says the growing lack of faith on main street is due in part to politicians who have lost sight on why they were sent to washington in the first place, to govern. >> oh my goodness, people, you're not two! you're adults! get your act together! i would never tolerate my teenage son behaving this
way. and yet all of washington seems to be behaving this way. >> woodruff: need to know >> woodruff: "need to know" airs on most pbs stations tonight. >> brown: again, the major developments of the day: the unemployment rate dropped below 8% in september for the first time since january 2009. president obama cheered the figures; mitt romney argued the recovery is still tepid. and clinics in 23 states tried to alert hundreds of people who may have contracted fungal meningitis. 47 people have gotten sick from tainted steroid shots, and five have died. online, we have plenty of politics, economics and international stories, but that's not all. hari sreenivasan shares some of our arts and culture offerings. >> sreenivasan: in africa, one hit tv show does more than entertain. broadcast around the continent, "shuga" is a drama that provides aids education and broaches taboo subjects. we talk to an aids activist about its impact. on "art beat, we look at the national storytelling festival. it began 40 years ago in the appalachian town of
jonesborough, tennessee, and now is one of the largest annual gatherings of storytellers in the country. and a program note-- "sound tracks: music without borders"-- offers behind-the-scenes stories about the power of music to touch hearts and change the world. the program features four artists, and includes interviews and live performances. it airs tonight on pbs. find a link to "sounds tracks" and much more on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. >> woodruff: and again to our honor roll of american service personnel killed in the afghanistan conflict. we add them as their deaths are made official and photographs become available. here, in silence, are nine more.
here monday evening. have a nice weekend. thank you and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: intel bnsf, the engine that connects us. >> and by the bill and melinda gates foundation. dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy, productive life. >> and with the ongoing support
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